(International Mixed Martial Arts Federation)

MMA in the Olympics Still Facing Hurdles After GAISF Ruling

The journey toward Olympic recognition of MMA will continue on in the Swiss legal system.

The UFC-partnered International Mixed Martial Arts Federation-World Mixed Martial Arts Association (IMMAF-WMMAA) was recently denied Observer Status in the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF), a required part of the Olympic process.  

IMMAF-WMMAA CEO Densign White told IMMAF.org no official reason had been given for the denial. However, past issues include a perceived rivalry with the WMMAA, the need for a youth development program and the obtaining of signatory status from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA.)


The IMMAF and WMMAA merged in July 2018 and held the sport’s first unified amateur world championship in November in Bahrain. The organization is set to hold its first cadet world championship (ages 12-17) this August in Rome and released the tiered ruleset on Feb. 16. No strikes to the head will be allowed in any age group. The full rules can be viewed here.

UFC veteran Joe Stevenson and Duke Roufus were announced as the U.S. youth coaches in January by the country’s youth affiliate, the United States Fight League.

White told IMMAF.org on Feb. 4, 2019:

“Unfortunately it was not the decision we had expected or wanted. A lot of work has gone into the application and this is very disappointing. The rejection letter from GAISF does not give any explanation either as to how or why they arrived at this verdict, and we are seeking further information. This is not the end of the story. We will continue to fight for our place in the wider community of sports and we will be reapplying as soon as possible.”

The denial of IMMAF-WMMAA’s WADA status appears to be the only hurdle at the moment, something the joint force does not understand. The governing body believes their anti-doping regulations are fully WADA compliant.

The two parties have been involved in a lawsuit of that status since February 2018.

“WADA and GAISF were working hand in hand in building a case against WADA making IMMAF a signatory. WADA is saying that MMA is very violent and dangerous and doesn’t meet Olympic values. Yet, they never officially told us about any other complaint [from an international federation] except WMMAA [World Mixed Martial Arts Association], which they sent us to resolve.

“We told everyone, ‘Now is the time to make it known if you object to MMA’” said White, “If they [other federations] consider us a rival, they have to say so. No one has, except behind closed doors,” White said prior to GAISF’s decision.

White addressed the lawsuit last August.

“IMMAF is disputing the rejection of its application to become a WADA signatory on the grounds of infringement to its personality rights according to Swiss law.

“Although IMMAF meets all WADA criteria, the agency which was founded to independently protect and support participant safety in sport, rejected IMMAF’s application. The sole reason given was rebuttal by other recognized International Sports Federations, mainly combat sports federations.”

While MMA still faces opposition from WADA, GAISF and combats sports already a part of the Olympics, the sports of kickboxing and sport sambo were granted provisional acceptance by the International Olympic Committee in December 2018.

Combat Press previously reported, “Sambo most closely resembles MMA with its integration of striking, grappling and open-finger gloves. Competitors also wear a standard gi jacket and belt, as in judo and jiu-jitsu. However, it is combat sambo that is like a distant cousin to MMA.”

However, only sport sambo was accepted as opposed to combat sambo. The IMMAF-WMMAA hope to debut MMA as a demonstration sport at the 2028 summer games in Los Angeles.

Combat Press will continue coverage of this situation when more information is available.